Pioneer AVH-P5900DVD review

6 artists per page, one click…When provided with a 7″ screen to control a device which can have a capacity – even at the time this unit was launched – in excess of 10,000 tracks, it would make sense to prioritise searching. Apple, in their wisdom, have come up with a rapid search mode that was first implemented in the 5.5G iPod Video (30GB/80GB) and remains in the current iPod Classic and iPod Nano models. This uses very fast selection of alphabetical characters and narrows down the list using them. Pioneer – and indeed, every other manufacturer – appears to have missed this innovation. As far as I can tell the “Made for iPod” specification appears to have some sort of pre-loading of playlist/file information, and using this, Ripspeed were able to provide a proportional scrollbar – so how hard can it be to make that extra step and have it narrow down by character?

Pioneer have actually made it even harder. Not only is the scrollbar non-proportional, it cannot be dragged. Let’s make that clear. You have a display showing 6 “items” – artist, albums, or playlists – and you cannot drag the marker through the list. You tap the control to skip a page of six, and then tap the album to select the songs – upon which it gets worse; you have to tap the song or continue paging – you can’t navigate by using a “joystick” type controller, or hardware buttons. What this means is that if you have 800 artists and would like to choose an album by, say, Dire Straits, you may have to tap the screen or hardware controller a hundred times (the alternative is to hold your finger on the display – going from Dire Straits to Princess Superstar took over a minute). Pop Will Eat Itself? The currently playing track will have ended. At which point, if it’s the end of an album or playlist, the menu will jump right back to the beginning! This is an exceptionally poor showing in interface design, but Pioneer are far from alone in serving up this half-baked dross as “direct iPod control”. If you cannot easily select information – be it a rapid skip, or search, or even playlists – without suffering more distraction from the road than perhaps manually retuning the radio, then you are failing to provide a safe, or useful, direct iPod control function. It is quicker to switch to iPod Video mode, which passes control over to the iPod, and allow your passenger to select music on the iPod itself. Whilst illegal, IMO it’s probably safer for the driver to do that too – it’ll be a lot faster.

Compounding this is the utter inability of the unit to provide any meaningful display on the VFD. You have a choice of nothing, current time, or n/n indicating which song number out of the number in the current playlist is currently playing. All you can do with the hardware buttons on the front is skip songs in a playlist – there is no form of menu navigation at all without using the large display.

Don’t play with your joystick in the car!In terms of multimedia features, the Pioneer’s AV inputs are initially confusing, with AV on the primary menu being more a “marker” to a setup option that actually chooses the input from S-VHS, Video or other sources. Once configured the lone additional AV input provides a clean signal with stereo audio, and the colours are good (but have easily accessed adjustments if you require). You may also set a video source as your background image, so you could (for example) have a looped video or screensaver playing behind the radio controls.

Pioneer provide a range of expansion units connected via the P-bus standard, including the CD-BT200 Bluetooth telephone interface, CD-UB100 USB interface (for connecting memory stick devices, or hard disk drives), DEQ-6000 surround sound processor, GEX-500DVB Digital TV tuner (an analogue tuner is also available but would be a poor investment now), the unusual AVG-VDP1 Vehicle Dynamics Processor and the AVIC-800DVD navigation unit. It’s possible to turn the AVH-P5900DVD into the centre of a very impressive and complex in-car network, which makes the low quality of some aspects of the system even more frustrating.

Pioneer’s “high end” entry in the standalone DVD/Radio head unit market comes with a claimed RRP of £899, putting it up against some fairly heavyweight products from Alpine, Kenwood and feature-packed options from LG. Fortunately, the street price is much lower for what turns out to be quite a limited featureset. Coming up from the budget end of the market, there are tangible benefits in terms of build quality, stability and reliability – but there are also some surprising ommissions. With the benefit of more experience and information, I suspect I would not have chosen to spend as much on this particular head unit.

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2 Responses to “Pioneer AVH-P5900DVD review”

  1. Pigeons420 Says:

    PLEASE HELP!!! What cord is needed to play the videos off the IPhone through the AVHP5900DVD player!?!?!?!?!?!?

  2. RichardK Says:

    From memory – and we’re going back a long way here – the composite A/V cable would be the right one. It’ll play the video, but it won’t control the iPhone, you’ll need to do that from the handset.

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